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Copyright Jim Widner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
18 Oct 1994
On September 30, 1962 a major milestone in radio drama came to an end with the final episode of the long running series, SUSPENSE. Ironically, the episode was titled "Devil Stone" and was the last dramatic radio play from a series that had its roots in the golden age of radio.
What began as a "new series frankly dedicated to your horrification and entertainment" took on a life of its own mostly due to the talents of some outstanding producers and adaptations and original stories from the cream of mystery writers of the time. The golden age of radio was truly the golden age of SUSPENSE as show after show broadcast outstanding plays which were "calculated to intrigue...stir [the] nerves."
It was the series' first producer, William Spier, who set the framework of rules that was to stay with the show for most of its run. Mr. Spier determined that the series should deal with life-and-death situations established near the beginning of each play and then through the use of Bernard Herrmann's musical coloring and the writer's characterizations slowly tighten the knot of SUSPENSE. Many of the early stories were written by the mystery writer, John Dickson Carr. Others were by such fine writers as Lucille Fletcher, whose SUSPENSE play, "Sorry, Wrong Number" was turned into a major motion picture; Robert Arthur, Robert L. Richards, Morton Fine and David Friedkin. The series also drew from the mystery writers of the day as well as the horror writers of literature; writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Cornell Woolrich, Dorthy L. Sayers and H.G. Wells.
Many of the stories produced by Mr. Spier are now classics of the genre. Listen to the likes of "The House in Cypress Canyon" as a young couple encounters something in the closet of their new home, something horrible and dangerous; or "The Hitchhiker" in which a man driving cross-country seems to be haunted by an ominous figure, who keeps reappearing trying to get a ride. But what foreboding does the hitchhiker hold for the driver?
Another rule William Spier established was to make the series a place to hear the talents of Hollywood's famous actors. There rarely was a famous actor who did not appear on the series at some time. Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Lucille Ball, Olivia De Havilland and many others all made at least one appearance. The series had a generous budget from its network, CBS.
In 1948 the series had become popular enough that it was decided to broadcast for a complete hour, instead of the former thirty minutes. The actor Robert Montgomery was brought in to introduce the plays, replacing the "Man in Black" character and occasionally star in them. This format lasted only six months most probably due to the realization that the show worked best within a thirty minute framework.
It was at this time that William Spier left and over the years others came to produce the shows, each setting his own unique mark. Anton M. Leader, who came from producing another horror radio program, MURDER AT MIDNIGHT, added some lighter SUSPENSE stories which focused more on the central characters. Jimmy Stewart appeared in an excellent story about a paralysed war veteran who thinks he has found the man who imprisoned and tortured him. Fibber McGee & Molly appeared in a tale about a killer on the loose in "Backseat Driver."
Probably the biggest change in SUSPENSE came under the producing eye of Elliott Lewis. Lewis brought in comic actors to play serious roles. Actors such as Jack Benny, Red Skelton and Ozzie Nelson. He also was not afraid to experiment using the series slot for classic "murder" stories such as "Othello."
The series continued to produce high-quality drama, though there were many repeats as well as borrowing of scripts from other radio shows. While a number of film actors continued to star occasionally, many of the stars were from radio and television since radio as a dramatic art form was beginning to lose its popularity and budgets were tightened.
The show was on the air for a little over twenty years beginning in January, 1942 and was rarely pre-empted. There were 947 performances. Nearly all (approximately 895) are available to collectors. When SUSPENSE left the air, radio was never to see the likes of such a series again. Now the great medium of radio where imagination can run free has been reduced to the occasional brilliant drama airing sporadically in some corner of the world. SUSPENSE was a golden moment in a golden age. A moment when the thrill of the nightime led the listener along the path of intrigue, horror and dangerous adventure.
Permission for use granted by Jim Widner
NOTE: Updated Release! Version 2.0. Now 36 CDs worth of Suspense! Additional versions of shows plus upgraded sound quality. (06-Dec-2012)
NOTE: Updated Release! Version 1.1. Minor changes only, and only in CD #01 -- all 28 other CDs are the same as in Version 1.0. Updates on CD #01 include an updated Acknowledgement file and a correction in the name of a Transcription Disk image. No MP3 file changes in this release. (22-Jun-2011)
OTRR Certification Information:
Series Name: Suspense
Certification Status: OTRR Certified Accurate
Certification Date: October 15, 2012
Certification Version: Version 2
Number of CDs: 36
From the Old Time Radio Researchers Group. See "Note" Section below for more information on the OTRR.
Creative Commons license: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0
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Subject: Killer programs.
Movies in your head. Thanks for uploading these outstanding programs!
Subject: Great series!!
I'm really enjoying these. Thank you so much to the person who uploaded them here! I only recently learned that people used to broadcast plays on the radio and now I'm hooked on this series and a couple of others. Now I only watch TV for the news. This is better quality entertainment than those cheesy reality shows I was watching.
Max Reiner -
Subject: Suspense Good Audio Quality
I've found the Suspense series on Archive to be of excellent quality. I'm assuming most, if not, all the shows were done live or live to disc recordings. It would have been difficult to match audio quality to do second takes with analog disc recording because the additional take insert would result in an obvious change of quality, unless the show was recorded on a vertical transcription. But then to get the insert point would be nerve-wracking.
Can someone verify then that most of show done before the start of audio tape were done live or live to disc recording for air play?
Thanks, too, to Jim Widner for his outstanding Suspense background writeup! My email is "email@example.com."
Subject: re Suspense
I have never listened to Suspense before until a friend recommended i listen to a few episodes,well what a great surprise.An absolutely fantastic show i would recommend that others have listen to.To the person or persons who uploaded this, my eternal gratitude thank you very much.
Jimbo Mason -
It's amazing the quality recording found here. I am astonished!
If you like Suspense, you need to download these.
Subject: My (OUR) Thanks for your efforts
I have been a big fan of the Suspense OTR for some time now. Thank you so much for priving us (me) the best collection of Suspense OTR available today.
I love it.
Thank You Thank You and Thank You
You deserve a 6 Star for sure
Subject: Thank God for the OTRRG
I agree with Poe, I've always been just a moderate fan of Suspense since most of the episodes prior to the release of this collection have not been in the best of shape and such. But after listening to a couple dozen of this newly released version of the show I can personally vouch that I am starting to see the light on why so many have praised this fantastic radio series!
Suspense has never been a show that I was particularly fond of, but I went ahead and gave it another go, and combined with the great quality of this particular set, I'm beginning to reconsider that position.
Subject: Thanks for this Excellent series
I already have suspense but I'm downloading these because of the superior quality. I really appreciate OTRR for the time they spend keeping OTR alive. Suspense is one of my all time favorites, right up there with Gunsmoke. Let's just hope the crooked Radio Spirits company doesn't try to get this removed. Don't give into them Archive, these shows are public domain for all to enjoy!
Moose Malloy -
This is a magnificent contribution to OTR. The audio quality is fantastic, especially compared to the previously available versions on Archive.org
We radio fans owe a debt of gratitude to all who made this wonderful collection possible.
In content and presentation, this is a joyous, rich delight that will last through the years.
Subject: Suspense is excellent!
My apologies, CD 1 is so filled with fantastic bonus materials that the episode files don't start until CD 2. Now I can get started enjoying every one of these programs. Thanks much!
Subject: Eagerly anticipated!
I've been waiting for the OTRRG to release a Suspense set from the first. While I used to have a fairly comprehensive set of Suspense episodes, they were lost to the sands of time. Probably the greatest "old-time" radio show of all time in my opinion.